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Firefighters may get ‘seeing’ cameras

Volunteer firefighter Georgia Brown looks through a thermal imaging camera Thursday.
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Christmas is over. But a Grass Valley woman wants to give a present to the city’s Fire Department – two high-tech, camera-like devices that “see” through smoke and will help firefighters do their job.

Georgia Brown, a volunteer firefighter for the city, hopes to help raise $26,000 to buy the city two thermal imaging cameras at a cost of $13,000 each.

“Basically, this is a life-saving tool,” Brown said. “In essence, it gives you the ability to see through smoke.”



The cameras sense heat. If someone is trapped inside a smoke-filled room, they appear on the camera’s view screen as a ghostly, white image.

“It’s a pretty nifty piece of technology,” Fire chief Hank Weston said.




“Normally, firefighters have to crawl around on hands and knees and feel their way through the building.”

But a thermal imaging camera allows a firefighter to quickly scan a smoke-filled room. That could help locate children or elderly people who sometimes panic during a house fire and hide in a closet, Westin said.

Fires hidden inside walls also can be found with the device, Westin said.

Brown is pinning her fund-raising hopes on western Nevada County’s five Rotary clubs. Presidents of the clubs plan to pick a local project to celebrate Rotary’s 100th birthday.

Other fund-raising ideas of Brown’s include pancake breakfasts, dinner dances and an auction of products and services donated by businesses.

Brown said she is a busy mother of two who also works as a flight instructor and as a phlebotomist, or bloodletter, at the Grass Valley Blood Center.

Brown decided to press for thermal imaging cameras because “the more I read about it, it didn’t make sense that we didn’t have it.”

“The difference is like going in with your eyes closed or your eyes open.”


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